ST JUDE

Lent 13 ~ The Saint to Call On

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“Jude is my favorite of all the saints,” he says. “Patron saint of lost causes. The saint to call on when all hope is gone. The one in charge of miracles.”   ~  Jandy Nelson

 

          My country needs a miracle. As my heart scans the undulating sand dunes stretched out before me, I see no hope for my land. We have seen the government we voted in shockingly stolen from us. The sordid past once again occupies the seats of power and authority. Everything we fought for is gone. And yet, each day, we seem to lose more and more. And more. Corruption is rife. Money buys loyalty.

          I know the importance of hope, but there is none left in me to summon.

          Heart aching for my country, I consecrate her to St. Joseph. Please save my land, St. Joseph, I pray. Every fibre of my being wants to give up and to leave this country and start a new life somewhere else, but I’ve never run away and won’t start now.

          I call out to the night for hope. I seek and call, over and over. Please give me hope, I beg of heaven.

          Then, someone strikes a match in the dark.

Patron saint of lost causes.

The saint to call on when all hope is gone.

The one in charge of miracles.

St Jude

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parting the Mists

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         September brought the inevitable drying of my spirit again. I knew it had come when every time a light lit up for me and I went to it, the dry would touch me and what I thought was there would disappear. Over and over, it happened, like the touch-me-nots that close in on themselves the minute they are touched. Every prayer direction, every prayer itself, would close itself away from me just as I reached out to embrace it.

          I didn’t understand what God was trying to tell me. I am more than familiar with the spiritual aridity God has allowed for me for some years now. I know it from the signs. Exactly the desert. Devoid of almost everything.

          But this time it was different. I was being shown signs. Little lights that came and almost immediately receded out of sight. The signs stayed only as long as it took me to notice them, and then, they were gone.

          St Jude. The Illumination of Conscience. St Michael. Pray for protection. St Jude. Seven Sorrows Rosary.

          Nonetheless, I took each one and its call to heart. I followed every light in what little obedience I could summon. I followed them despite doubts. I followed them despite the absence of consolation that it was the right thing to do.

          Yet, I remained troubled at the briefness of each praying period and the quick change to another prayer. I was afraid that I wasn’t discerning the signs right. I was afraid that ‘something else’ might be fooling with me, making me tear down after each light so that I would soon be breathless, frazzled  and distracted.

          But I wasn’t. I wasn’t out of breath. I wasn’t frazzled. I wasn’t distracted. Despite the rapid shifts in spiritual calls I was seeing, alongside the inner aridity, coexisted a strange calm and deep quiet. Dryness and water impossibly together.

          Church matters required that my family be at church on Saturday. There, a complete stranger, a lapsed Catholic married to a non-Christian, sought my company. She was hurting deeply. The kids were a problem. Money was a problem. Intense business rivalry had cost her her business. She had only come to our Catholic parish to send her non-Catholic kids to a free coaching programme.

          She had interrupted me in the midst of my task and I had to force myself to focus fully on this woman pouring her heart out to me. I covertly traced crosses on myself that I say nothing to upset her further, that I add nothing to her already immense burdens and fears. As the words tumbled out of her, I was much aware of the Our Lady of Lourdes statue that loomed high above the grotto behind this woman. Glancing at the statue, I silently prayed that I be emptied of myself. Emptied so that Mother Mary could touch this woman in her sorrows through me. I asked for Mother’s words. I asked for Mother’s touch.

          Desperate to help this poor woman, I gently suggested Holy water. I gently turned the woman towards the Rosary. The sprinkling of Holy Water and the recitation of the Rosary, even just gripping it without the words, were my own, habits formed from pain and sorrow and fears much like this stranger’s. But steering this lady towards them, I felt we were going nowhere. I didn’t feel Mother Mary’s power course through me. I didn’t feel that my words had come from heaven. So, I stopped trying to turn her towards those life-savers. Instead, I said our goodbyes, I gave her my promise: I would pray for her.

          And her aching reply to me was, Don’t forget my name.

          Later, I discovered that the coaching programme this woman had come to church to send her kids to was run by the St. Vincent de Paul society members of our church. I had known of this outreach to the poor, but had forgotten about it.

          Yet, the moment I heard the name St Vincent de Paul, I felt it tug at my spirit.

          Short hours later, I entered the empty church for some quiet time. I looked at the big Divine Mercy image before me and remembered I had a load of prayer needs. So, I went before my Lord and set down my prayer cart filled with the needs and aches – both mine and of others, including the distraught stranger’s. I pressed her name to Jesus’s Heart.

          After a time, I got up to leave. About to go out the church door, I spied a small booklet tucked into one of the pew kneelers. Curious, I picked it up. It was on the various Marian apparitions. There was a brief list of them – Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, Knock and Akita. The Akita apparitions caught my attention. I still had time, so I sat down to read about it.

          Instead of Akita, my searching fingers stopped at the Rue du Bac Marian apparitions experienced by St. Catherine Labouré. She had been a young nun of the order of the Daughters of Charity.

          The order had been started by St. Vincent de Paul.

          Honestly, honestly, had I not heard of the apostolate of the same name earlier, had I not left my work to give my full attention to that distraught and searching stranger, had I not remembered her name to God as I had promised, St. Vincent de Paul wouldn’t have sunk in as deeply, and I would have skipped this read and gone on to the Akita  apparitions.

          But St. Vincent de Paul had felt much like all the other lights of September, perhaps more so. Coming twice in the space of such short hours, there was a firmness to it that my spirit was alerted to. So, I read on about Rue du Bac apparitions which I thought I knew pretty well.

          It turned out I had more to learn. I was surprised when in it I found answers to my most recent queries. I had been asking God for some days if I had discerned the prayer calls right. Prayer wasn’t coming easy and the flitting from one prayer call to another had me in spiritual jitters. I had even wondered if that meant I needed to do something other than just pray, if I needed to stop.

          And there in that little book was a line that caught my heart: …..Mary offered advice to the young woman, including the need to rely on prayer

          It was a commonplace sentence but the way it fell into my heart told me those were no mere words. They were Heaven’s answers to my September seeking. It was waiting for me in that little book on Mother Mary’s appearances to those on earth. 

          I was led to it by St. Vincent de Paul.

          Suddenly, those all those little random lights of before right up to this day didn’t seem disconnected nor so little any more. Every one of those were like the touch-me-nots my lens had caught in August, steering me away from what should not be my focus, towards the vital stones that were set in the footpaths of this September that I was being called to tread.

          Those lights were not distractions. They were not misread. That was why even as I thought I was being rushed from one port of call to another, I didn’t feel torn or stretched, despite the absence of consolation that I was doing what was right.

           I went home a happy woman that day. God had answered me and I was all ready to return to prayer with a renewed and refreshed vigour.

          As the sable breezes of night began to sing their hymns, the Marian apparitions of Rue du Bac appeared once more before me. This time, I was led to Mother Mary’s appearance in the 2nd apparition.

She was standing on top of a white globe, which only the superior area was seen, and she was crushing a green serpent with yellow dots. Her hands where elevated to her hearts height and she was holding another small globe of gold, crown with a cross. The Virgin Mary had a supplicant attitude, as if offering the globe….

…..The (white) globe at Her feet: the sin of the world… The globe in Her hands: the world offered to Jesus through Her hands.        

–       http://www.piercedhearts.org/treasures/shrines/miraculous_medal.htm

          White globe…..superior area…seen…the words settled on my heart and awakened a memory.

          A memory of a dream. A dream of a huge white map in a blue sky.

          A year ago on the 28th of October, on the feast of St Jude, the Patron Saint of Hopeless Cases, I had a dream of walking on a street. It felt like an old part of some European town. The streets were clean and narrow, the buildings that lined it almost colonial, clean and whitewashed. There was an old feel to the streets.

          Then, I looked up and saw an impossibly huge, startling white map of the world spread out in the bluest of cloudless skies. My attention seemed to be riveted towards Africa. After the initial shock, I rather quickly dismissed the map and continued my walk even as the map remained suspended in the sky. 

          Suddenly I turned to the back and saw a big, equally white statue of Our Lady on the road kerb behind me. Immediately, I looked back up at the white map in the sky.

          And I was now seized with a deep fear of what that map meant.

          The dream continued to a second part.

          I was in the compound of a little, green church. Interiorly, I knew it to be a St Jude parish. It was crammed full of happy, peaceful and charitable people; there seemed to be standing room only. A cousin saw me and smiled at me. It felt like she was trying to tell me all was well. After a while, I moved to leave.

          As I was leaving the church, I felt these words impressed upon me ~

Pray for others.

          Soon after that dream, I sought the counsel of my confessor. He advised me to move on from my present prayers. He told me to pray for Africa since it seemed to hold my attention through the map.

          I obeyed my confessor immediately. I lashed myself to this prayer call and gave it my all. Through the ebb and flow of almost a year, I have forced and forced myself to pray for Africa.

          Yet, every time I prayed this way, I felt an inner resistance. Initially, I put it down to reluctance to go beyond the intercessory borders familiar to me. After months of struggling, I sensed it might not be mere reluctance. It felt like something else was holding me away from the prayer. So I prayed to be guided.

          Today, I think the Rue du Bac apparitions have cleared the mists a little. The white globe in the Rue du Bac apparition is the white map in my dream.

          St Jude is the key to this certainty. St Jude’s coming to me in August through September in the quiet and prompt way he answered the cry of my heart over one of my children, is the tinkle of a silver bell. God could have sent any one of my favourite saints, or even a new one. But He chose St Jude – because he was linked to the white map of my dream. It was his voice I heard in the second half of the dream: Pray for others, telling me all I had prayed for before this were safe in his church, the little green church, and as my confessor discerned – in advance – it was time for me to move on.

          St Jude had come before October to get my attention through my family needs because he had another mission: it was time he heralded the time of the map to me.

          To seal my certainty of the links in this dream to the apparition is Our Lady of Rue du Bac Herself. I had always assumed She had appeared as OL of Fatima in my dream because She had been in white and I didn’t know of any other apparitions where She had appeared attired in this colour. However, in my dream, Her hands were not pressed together. She was in total white and her hands were spread out.

          This was how She had appeared in Her apparition to St Catherine Labouré. I see that only now. A bell is ringing through this little detail.

          At a time when the weather is raging at a world that dared to plunder and steal from Nature, at a time when we seem so broken and divided yet united in wanting to hurt one another, the dream of the white map has returned to the skies of my life. Little lights, one lit by the other, have illumined the footpath that has led to this moment.

           And I need to know what I am to do next.

          One thing is certain: It is not a knowing that I can summon imperiously. This knowledge of the path ahead will only come through obedience to fulfil in perfection the littlest of calls from Heaven.

          Just as before, it will be the depth of my obedience and humility in saying Yes to God that will light the next lamp, to part the mists of whatever lies ahead.

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving On

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          On the 28th of October, I had a dream. Walking down a street bordered by old, old, whitewashed buildings, on a sunny day with the clearest and bluest of skies free from even a hint of cloud.

          And then suddenly, in those skies appeared a huge, pure white map. A blank map consisting of the continents of Africa, Europe and Asia. No cities or towns marked on that map, no names of the countries. Only their boundaries, drawn in black.

          Among the continents and countries I saw, only Africa stood out clear and bright; all the rest seemed to be in a slight shadow – but I understood that to mean that the focus was on the African continent.

          In the dream, looking at the map in the sky, I mused if I now had to pray for Africa as well. Somewhat disinterested, I dismissed it and turned away from the map, intent on my journey. A few steps on, for some reason, I stopped and turned to look behind me.

          There on the side of the street, was a big statue of Our Lady of Fatima, looking out at the street.

          I have never been afraid of any statue, none has ever struck fear within me. But seeing this statue of OL of Fatima, I was gripped with a sudden fear.

          But not of the statue itself. In that fear, my gaze immediately shot towards the white map still suspended in the blue sky, and I had a deep realization:

I have to pray for them.

          I awakened briefly after the dream. The fear from the dream was not deep, but it sat firmly enough on my heart. I fell back into sleep.

          And into the next dream.

          I was outside a St Jude church, one I had never seen before. Its walls were a fresh, clean, soft shade of green. There was a Mass going on inside the little church. It was packed to the brim. The congregants seemed happy and cared for.

          As I moved to leave the church grounds, I felt these words etched deep in my heart –

Pray for others.

          And immediately, the memory of the white map flashed before me.

          The message seemed clear enough, but there were missing pieces, as in – what do I pray for? who do I pray for – which others are these? And I wondered about the connection between the white map and St Jude. When I awakened, I realized it was the feast of St Jude – one that I have always marked by saying the 9-day novena, but which I did not do this year simply because I didn’t feel like it. So, did the saint come to me through the dream, to tell me I needed to continue my prayers for others? It seemed so, but even that didn’t make sense. 99% of my prayers were for others. It has always been that way. The strength for my own journey has always come from the nourishment of praying for others.

          But St Jude had clearly said, Pray for others.

          A mere reminder to carry on doing it? Somehow, I felt there was more.

          So, I took my dreams to the Interpreter of Dreams – St Joseph, and asked him to make them clear. After a period of quiet, a single word floated up before me ~

Consecrate

Consecrate a nation? Wasn’t that for the Pope to do? I could barely manage my own life, I didn’t believe I was being asked to do the work of the Pope now. It must be pride, I surmised.

          So, I shrugged off consecrate.

          Short days later, at Mass, the weekly prayer for the Year of Mercy was recited. One word of the many there reached out and caught my spirit ~

Consecrate

          This time I could not shrug it off. All this was now clearly beyond me and I needed spiritual direction. Suddenly, I was filled with an odd urgency to seek out my spiritual advisor, ensconced in a parish many miles away.

          Father listened to my tumble of words. Then, with a calm sureness, he confirmed that the call was indeed to place the continent of Africa into the hands of Our Lady of Fatima.

          I was still slightly unconvinced. And more than a little unwilling.  Africa had never been on my personal news-scape. I knew little of that country, and nothing before this had tugged me to it.

          Except that in recent days, for some reason, I had been rolling the name of Sierra Leone on my tongue.

          I had totally forgotten that this priest had an on-going mission with Africans. More than anyone I knew, he has a firsthand understanding of the situation there. And sure enough, he immediately grasped the meaning of the first dream:    Mother Mary was not before you; She was behind you. This indicates Africa has pushed aside the Mother of God to the far back. They have replaced her with other gods. They need to return to loving Her again.

           And on seeing Her behind you, you immediately looked up at Africa again. That is Her call to you, he explained. That you pray them back to Her.

          He advised me to consecrate Africa by offering up the continent during Mass. He reminded me that St Jude was the patron saint of hopeless cases, and his call to me in the second dream was to pray for others – hopeless cases.

          How serious was the situation in Africa, I asked, still seeking that final escape chute.

          Very, Father insisted. In some places, the faith is strong. Others – not so.

          Like where? I pressed. I knew of the fervor of pure faith in Rwanda, and flippantly assumed Rwanda represented the faith of the whole of Africa.

          Nigeria, Father offered.

          Anywhere else?

          Sierra Leone, he supplied matter-of-factly.

          I was startled. Of all the places.

          Then, Father gently but firmly added, Go beyond your family and present prayer needs.

          His words reminded me of a phrase that had come to me a long time ago ~ Spread your nets further. I wasn’t clear about it then, but the haze mysteriously cleared up a bit now. I had understood enough. Still less than eager, I was, however, determined to do what I was called to.

          Yet, my spirit remained in a hold. Not soaring in zeal. Not on fire.

          I lashed myself in obedience to the needed prayers. For the first few days, it felt right. But soon, I began to sense a drying up within me. A drying that took with it all prayer. I fought and fought it. But the aridity streamed in further and deeper.

          I was about to get myself into a twist of frustration when I remembered my vow to not revisit old haunts of behavior. Instead, I offered up my dryness to Our Lady of Fatima. The very next minute, I recalled a prayer given to me some time ago.

Empty me and fill me with the Holy Spirit.

As I prayed it with an earnestness deepened by the agony of the spiritual aridity, I felt my spirit sink in relief into the prayer. This was strange. It was as if my spirit had been searching for home, an anchor. And found that anchor in that prayer of Surrender to the Holy Spirit.

          In the days that followed, over and over, I went to that prayer. When I wanted to pray but couldn’t. When I could pray but failed to find a prayer that rested in ease on my spirit. Over and over,

Empty me and fill me with the Holy Spirit

Empty me and fill me with the Holy Spirit

Empty me and fill me with the Holy Spirit.

          On the 5th of November, the First Saturday of the month, I went to Mother Mary for the first Saturday devotion. I give you my will, my heart, my mind, my soul. I give you my motherhood, my vocations, my job, my everything. I want to pray but cannot. There is no prayer in my heart. Please, Our Lady, give me my prayer.

          And in a whisper of a moment, I felt these words press deep into me.

Rest your heart in Jesus.

          Again, my spirit reached eagerly for the new prayer. Jesus, I rest my heart in You.

          It was then that the mists parted over months of signposts and I saw their meaning.

Blow the breath of my Mother into the realms.

Spread your nets further.

Sing a new song.

And now – Africa, the packed church, the call of the St Jude dream, Pray for others.

          Jesus shone His light on the signposts.

          Heaven had received the hearts of those I had loved through prayers. They were now in the church – the heart of God. They were now safe. It was time for me to leave and blow the breath of Mary into other waiting souls.

          Beginning with Africa.